Tuesday, June 19, 2007

What's in a (nick) name???

Most of us never had the luxury of having a nickname during our sporting days. Whether that included pee-wee, youth league, AAU, high school, or even collegiate athletic participation, the closest we got to a nickname was being screamed at by our last name by the coaches.

Nobody was likely to be called “Babe”, “Shoeless”, “Sweetness”, “Air”, “Pudge”, “The Splendid Splinter”, “The Great One”, “Magic”, or even “He Hate Me” on or off the field during their playing days.

There might have been some expletives shouted at us, but it just wasn’t the same as an incredibly cool nickname.

Ask your typical sports fan, young or old, and a few of their favorite nicknames most likely include (and yes, I know I will miss more than a few memorable ones):

Broadway” Joe Namath
Deion “Primetime” Sanders aka “Neon” Deion
The Mailman” Karl Malone
Pistol” Pete Maravich
Joe DiMaggio, “The Yankee Clipper
Willie Mays, “The Say Hey Kid
The Iron Horse” Lou Gehrig
William “The Refrigerator” Perry
Iron” Mike Tyson
Mr. October” Reggie Jackson
Jerome “The Bus” Bettis
Darryl “Chocolate Thunder” Dawkins
Robert “Tractor” Traylor
Evander “Real Deal” Holyfield
Andre “Bad Moon” Rison
Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini
Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon
Fred McGriff , “The Crime Dog
Thunder” Dan Majerle
Thomas “The Hitman” Hearns
Sugar” Ray Leonard
Ed “Too Tall” Jones
Super” Mario Lemieux
The Nigerian Nightmare” Christian Okoye
The Answer” Allen Iverson
The Human Highlight Film” Dominique Wilkins
Michael “Air”

The list goes on and on and on. And on.

Yet, there are some that stick out, at least to me, even more.

So, without further adieu, here are my top ten sporting nicknames (and yes, I’ll limit it to current athletes) going today…

10) Frank “The Big Hurt” Thomas
-While he isn’t the dominant MVP-caliber player he was during the mid-90s, he will always be remembered for his intimidating physical appearance and amazing plate discipline which allowed him to be one of the most feared hitters in all of baseball.

9) Carnell “Cadillac” Williams
-If you’re going to be a bruising running back, it never hurts to be named after an American classic automobile. Earning this nickname early on in college, even with a talented guy like Ronnie Brown splitting your carries, definitely earns my respect.

8) Orlando Hernandez aka “El Duque”
-One of the more memorable Yankee pitchers during their recent run of dominance, Orlando came from Cuba, age-issues and all, and brought along both personality and a Juan Marichal-reminiscent leg-kick. The MVP of the 1999 ALCS, El Duque passed “The Rocket” Roger Clemens for coolest pitching nickname for a Yankee…barely.

7) James “Lights Out” Toney
-Once the dominant middleweight fighter on the scene in the mid-90s, at least before being knocked out senseless by one Roy Jones Jr., Toney’s nickname has left him more popular as of late (rather than his heavyweight career). While boxing often lends to the most violent nicknames (aka “The Executioner” Bernard Hopkins), Toney’s still racks up #1 on my boxing nicknames list.

6) Gary Payton aka “The Glove”
-You already understand the nickname, that is if you know anything about Gary Payton or the game of basketball. A guy who wants to be a defensive specialist, and a trash-talker, has to eat up this nickname from the start.

5) Steve Francis aka “Stevie Franchise”
-A fan-favorite before he stepped out on an NBA court, I love how this nickname now means more of him being labeled as a “Franchise Killer”. Nevertheless, the four-time All-Star, at least back in the day once earned this nickname, in a positive light.

4) Rafer “Skip to my Lou” Alston
-Wikipedia describes it best: His nickname Skip To My Lou stemmed from his tendency to skip while dribbling the ball upcourt. He played in several prominent streetball tournaments including the Entertainer's Basketball Classic, the North American street basketball tour, the AND1 Mixtape Tour, and the ESPN TV show, Street Ball. It is said that, during a streetball tournament at the legendary Rucker Park in Harlem, Alston once performed what most would regard as an impossible move: during a fastbreak, he supposedly glided in the paint for a layup attempt but made a change of plans in the air as he rolled the ball down his right arm, across his shoulder and down his left arm to a trailing player for a finishing dunk.

3) Tom “Flash” Gordon
-Based on the famed comic book character, Flash Gordon works so ridiculously well for a hard-throwing reliever. No lengthy explanation is needed; quite frankly, it just sounds right for him. Smart and effective always performs well in my book. [At least in my book of Top Ten Lists]

2) Gilbert Arenas aka “Hibachi/Agent Zero”
-All a part of “Gilbertology”, these nicknames, perhaps self-imposed more than any others throughout this entire post, are all part of the world of Washington Wizard Gilbert Arenas. One of a kind, to say the least, Arenas epitomizes the modern-day eccentric athlete. Whether playing online poker at halftime, showering before a game in uniform, donating dollars upon dollars to charity, dispensing game jerseys to fans, throwing himself a million-dollar birthday party, or trying to one-up every former coach from USA basketball, Arenas is one-of-a-kind. Agent Zero must overcome all the obstacles the world throws at him; whereas Hibachi is just something Gilbert loves to yell out when he’s hot. We’re all along for the ride with this guy. And I’m loving just about every minute of it.

1) Adam “Pacman” Jones aka “The Rainman”
-First off, the Pacman nickname is cool enough as it is. [Thanks ProFootballTalk for putting it out there and ESPN Radio’s Doug Gotlieb for bringing it to the 4-letter network.] In fact, he goes as P. Jones on his NFL jersey, and most people don’t even know his first name (Adam). Gobbling up interceptions and making big hits allows him to have the best CB nicknames since one Deion Sanders. However, it’s the Rainman nickname (spouted off from a certain Lil’ Wayne-driven chorus in a song) that has gained recent acclaim. After his off-the-field antics in Vegas during All-Star Weekend (for the NBA, no less), the Rainman (and his record setting suspension) easily dominate the top of this list.

And the award for top “alias” goes to…
Mike Vick aka “Ron Mexico”
-All I will say is that soon he may be known as “Pitbull”.

Comment a few of your favorites if you’d like.

Especially if I missed some of the current ones that are simply too good, or goofy, to be true.
Until next time…


Paymon said...

I've always been partial to Joe "Little Big" Horn and George "The Iceman" Gervin.

And don't sleep on "The General" George Evans.

Brad Slepetz said...

I have always been partial to Chris Berman's (Bermanian) nicknames:

My favorites include:
Lance "You've Sunk my" Blankenship
Jeff "See Through" Blauser
Nomar "Mr. Nice Guy" Garciaparra
James "Teenage" Mouton "Ninja Turtles"
Pete "Raise Your Hand if You're" Schourek
Eric "Light My" Ziere

And my all-time favorite (miss-labeled on the website):
Carlos "One if by Land, Two if by Sea, Three if" Baerga

Brad Slepetz said...


Brad Slepetz said...

Not sure why that fucked up. Here you go:

Navid said...

Some of my personal favorites include:

-Shawn "the Stormin' Mormon" Bradley, or Shawn "Missionary Impossible" Bradley

-"Mount Mutombo" Dikembe Mutombo

-Teddy "Ice Cold" Bruschi